So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,
In the Greek there are no verbs in these four phrases, and they read literally, "Then, if any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of spirit, if any affection and mercy." I believe that the meaning of these phrases should be taken at face value as they are stated in the original. Others have attempted to put their own interpretation which I think is unwarranted. For example the New International Version assumes these phrases are all taking about Jesus and renders this verse, "If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion," whereas The Living Bible thinks these verses refer to Paul and gives, "Is there any such thing as Christians cheering each other up? Do you love me enough to want to help me? Does it mean anything to you that we are brothers in the Lord, sharing the same Spirit? Are your hearts tender and sympathetic at all?"
Although both these versions are possible interpretations, I prefer looking at these phrases literally and assume the most obvious meanings from a Christian standpoint. We can take a look at each one of these four areas as possible sources of joy for our life. Lets examine each one.
The first source of joy is the encouragement in Christ. The word encouragement means console or comfort. No matter what difficult times we may be facing, Jesus is there to comfort and console us. What troubles are you facing? You can have joy because Jesus will be your consolation.
The next source of joy is the incentive of love. When we are going through trials, we receive love from God to comfort us, and we receive the love and support from other believers to help encourage us. It is during difficult times that God spreads out a blanket of peace over us to help us through the storms. Just knowing that he cares for us and is with us is uplifting. Often God uses other Christians to come along side us to help us. It is their love and compassion that helps us to re-focus back on God and his goodness.
The third source of joy is the fellowship of the Spirit. We cannot receive the comfort of love we just mentioned unless we are in contact with God and with other believers. When we are going through a bad time, the tendency is to pull back. We get depressed and discouraged. We stop praying and start missing church. This is the worst thing we can do to ourselves. We need the fellowship of the Spirit. We need to spend time alone with God, allowing his Spirit to minister calmness to our soul. No matter how awful you feel: if you are in tears, or youre angry, or you feel hopeless; you need to enter into the Lords presence. Tell him how you feel. Cry to him, yell at him, moan to him, but dont stay away from him. While on this earth Jesus suffered too. He knows how you feel.
Not only can we have the fellowship of the Spirit by spending time alone with God, but we can also experience the fellowship of the Spirit when we are with other believers. Have you ever noticed how each church has people from all diverse backgrounds? Some dress in tailored three-piece suits, and others wear jeans and sandals. Some drive brand new Cadillacs while others drive old Chevys. Some are very quiet and reserved, others are loud and boisterous. Some are very serious, and others are bubbling over with laughter. In ordinary circumstances you would not find all these different kinds of people gathering together, sharing their concerns with each other, and helping each other out. But it is the Spirit which draws them all together in his fellowship. As Nelsons Bible Dictionary points out, "Positively, believers have fellowship with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as with other believers . Those who have fellowship with Christ should enjoy fellowship with other believers. This fellowship ought to illustrate the very nature of God Himself."
The fourth source of joy is affection and sympathy. In order to understand what this phrase really means, we have to examine the two Greek words spla/gxnasplangchna which means heart of mercy and oi)ktirmoi/ oiktirmoi which means heart of compassion. We of course could think of this mercy and compassion as coming from God and bringing us joy. But I think Paul is saying here that we need to have a heart of mercy and a heart filled with compassion. It is only when we can look at others with mercy and compassion that we will see them as the Lord sees them.
Mercy and compassion overlooks annoying behavior of other believers or family members. Mercy and compassion reaches out to those who are struggling instead of giving up on them. Mercy and compassion prays for those who offend instead of getting angry. Mercy and compassion reaches out to the unlovable. It reaches out to the hopeless and the obnoxious. It treats the poor as though they were rich, the ugly as though they were beautiful, the stubborn as though they were kind. It responds to bitterness with kindness, to anger with peace, and to hatred with love. Mercy and compassion is not easily offended, is patient, and is long-suffering. The believer who has a heart full of mercy and compassion will have a heart full of joy.
Complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.
In verse 2 Paul gives us a list of things we need to do to have joy and give others joy. They are: be of the same mind, have the same love, be in full accord, and of one mind. Before we examine each one of these, notice that the reason Paul gives for them to do these things is to fulfill Pauls joy. Nothing will make a minister happier than to see Christians who are willing to work together in love and in one accord.
The first thing Paul says is that the Philippians should be of the same mind. This doesnt mean that we all think the same, but that our goals and purpose in Gods work are the same. The church is here for a purpose. May we all be of the same mind to minister and encourage others.
The next thing Paul says is that we need to have the same love. Almost 1600 years ago Chrysostom pointed out, "Having the same love. That is, let it not be simply about faith alone, but also in all other things; for there is such a thing as to be of the same mind, and yet not to have love." We need to learn to act together in love, caring for and supporting each other.
The third thing is to be in full accord. We must be in accord as to the direction of the church and the focus of the ministry. We may disagree over how to accomplish different things, but if we are all working toward the same direction, we will find our differences will work themselves out.
And finally, we must be of one mind. We act together as a church fulfilling the commission that God has given us. As Harris comments, "Being of one accord, and of one mind; not crossing and thwarting, or driving on separate interests, but unanimously agreeing in the great things of God and keeping the unity of the Spirit in other differences."
Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves.
This verse starts off by telling us we should do nothing from selfishness or conceit. The Greek word used here is evriqei,an eritheian which means strife. We should not do anything through strife or contention.
As Scott informs us, "From that day to this, in the work of the church and in every kind of human organization, this age-old danger of personal rivalries has had to be faced. It can corrupt secretly the very religion which is supposed to be the greatest bulwark against it; and it has been the bane of the Christian church from the time when Jesus' disciples questioned who would be first in the kingdom of God, down to the church squabbles, small and great, which curse us still."
Next it says we should act in humility. We will examine this more in the next few verses as we see how Jesus was willing to humble himself and take on the form of man.
And finally this verse tells us to count others better than ourselves. When we let go of our own pride and start thinking of the needs of others, it is then that God can use us to be a blessing to others. It is sometimes hard for us to let our own feelings go and consider whats best for others, but this is what God wants us to do. As we learn to do this, it is then that we will discover a new joy as we minister to others.
Muller comments, "There must be no self-seeking, no sinful egotism; and also no conceit or pride which is vain and without content on account of self-imagined excellence. For such a disposition which seeks and prides itself is carnal and unworthy of a Christian. At Philippi they were acquainted with Judaizers who prided themselves on their observance of the law and circumcision, as well as with Greeks who found occasion for vainglorious self-exaltation in the wisdom of this world and the heights of their cultural attainments. Such, however, was not the Christian way. Such a mind, furthermore, is adverse to the spirit of unity in the church, for it seeks itself and breaks up the fellowship. Instead of this each should in humility count the other better than himself. Humility, a modest opinion of oneself, meekness, and an insight in one's own insignificance, is the opposite of self-exaltation, and it counts the other, i.e. the fellow-man better and more excellent than himself. Such a disposition will promote unity, for it binds believers together in mutual interest, respect and appreciation."
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
This is a continuation of the previous verse. As Beare paraphrases this verse, "He interprets verse 4, "each considering not his own rights but also the rights of others." How many times have we seen church divisions and Christians getting mad at each other because some felt they had to stand up for their rights. In Gods family I have no rights I only have the privilege to serve others.
McGee points out, "Others is the key to this passage. It is the Christian faith which first made that word others important. Why did Christ come from heaven's glory to this earth? It was for others. Why should we carry the gospel? For others. To think of others rather than ourselves is having the mind of Christ."
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
Verses 5-11 is one of the loveliest sections of scripture. It describes the humility of Jesus. It is so moving that some have imagined it might have been an early church hymn, or perhaps a poem Paul composed for that purpose. This is pure speculation, but it is a beautiful description of the mind of Christ. Jesus is our example of having the right attitude. Whenever we are angry with fellow believers, or upset with the church, or indignant at the pastor, we need to look to Christ as our example of the kind of attitude we need to cultivate.
We are encouraged to have the mind of Christ. The Believers Bible Commentary remarks, "Guy King has well described the mind of the Lord Jesus as: (1) The selfless mind; (2) The sacrificial mind; (3) The serving mind."
Who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
Jesus was the son of God. Before he came to this earth he was with God in the heavens. He was fully God. And yet he was willing to humble himself to the Father by performing Gods plan. He did not exalt himself, but he was willing to lower himself.
MacDonald explains, "The Lord Jesus did not lay aside any of the attributes of God when He came into the world. ... What He did was to empty Himself of His positional equality with God and to veil the glory of Deity in a body of human flesh. The glory was all there, though hidden, but it did shine forth on occasions, such as on the Mount of Transfiguration. [and when the soldiers fell back when he said I am He as they tried to arrest him.] There was no moment in His life on earth when He did not possess all the attributes of God."
But emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
To come to this earth and pay the price for our sins, Jesus emptied himself and took on the form of a servant. Do we really understand what that servants form was? It was the form of a man. We are nothing more than servants of the Almighty. Jesus was willing to take on our form so we would understand that God loves us. Jesus became fully man.
Believers Bible Commentary explains, "Christ always existed, but came into the world in the likeness of men, meaning as a real Man. The humanity of the Lord is as real as His deity. He is true God and true Man. But what a mystery this is! No created mind will ever be able to understand it."
And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross.
We are looking to Jesus as our example of the kind of attitudes we should exhibit to others. Christ was willing to come, to humble himself, to be obedient, even unto death, and even to the humiliation of the death of the cross. What does this teach us about how we should act? We need to humble ourselves. Let us be true servants of God not one to lord it over others, but one to serve others. Let us be obedient to God. The Lord teaches us to forgive one another, and forebear one another, to show kindness and patience to each other. Lord, help us to learn obedience. Jesus was willing to die for us. Are we willing to give our all for others? Or are we too busy? And finally, Jesus was willing to die a humiliating death. Are we willing to be humiliated or embarrassed for the cause of Christ? Let us learn from his example, and let us have the attitude that Christ showed us.
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name,
God has highly exalted Christ and given him a name above all names. Others mocked him, tortured him, scourged him, and humiliated him. But God has exalted him. If we are willing to endure mocking and scourging and humiliation and even scourging, God will lift us up. He will place us on higher ground. He will bring us with him in the heavenlies. Dont worry about this life. God will lift us up.
MacDonald tells us, "If the Savior humbled Himself, God also has highly exalted Him. If He did not seek a name for Himself, God has given Him the name which is above every name. If He bent His knees in service to others, God has decreed that every knee shall bow to Him. And what is the lesson in this for the Philippians and for us? The lesson is that way up is down. We should not exalt ourselves but be the servants of others, that God may exalt us in due time."
That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. When we all face our Savior, there will be no rankings and no preference among us. We will all be bowing before Christ. He wont have sections bowing before him based on race, nationality, appearance, intellect, or charm. We will all be one giant family of believers bowing humbly before him aware of how unworthy all our accomplishments really are.
Since we all will be there some day, why dont we start today? Why dont we start treating others in Gods family as if they are just as important as we are? Why dont we show love and compassion to those who are weak, who are hurting, and who need a helping hand? Let us begin today to have the mind of Christ. Let us learn how to have a right attitude.
This study on Philippians 2:1-11 © 1996, 1998 by David Humpal, all
Nelsons Illustrated Bible Dictionary, electronic version, © 1986 Thomas Nelson Publishers
Chrysostom: Homilies on Philippians, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, vol. 13, pg. 203
Harris: Matthew Henrys Commentary, vol. VI, pg. 731
Scott: The Interpreters Bible, vol. 11, pg. 42
Muller: The New International Commentary on the New Testament, Philippians and Philemon, pg. 75
Beare: The Epistle to the Philippians pg. 70
Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee, vol. 5, pg. 301
Believers Bible Commentary, New Testament Volume, pg. 781
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, New Testament Volume, pg. 782
Believers Bible Commentary, New Testament Volume, pg. 782-783
MacDonald: Believers Bible Commentary, New Testament Volume, pg. 783